January 28, 2016 @ 05:54 PM

Interview: Petronas’ supreme synergy for the road and track, Part 1

We sit down with the unsung heroes behind the fastest racing team on the planet – and find out about their winning formula…


With back-to-back Formula One Constructors and Drivers titles in the bag, there’s seems to be no stopping the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS FORMULA ONE™ team. Mr Chan Ming Yau and Dr. Andrea Dolfi sit down with CAR to shed light on just what makes them so fast!
 
CAR: Please introduce yourself
 
Chan Ming-Yau, Fuel Technology Manager, PETRONAS. I look after the development of PETRONAS PRIMAX range of fuels and PETRONAS Dynamic Diesel for retail business and motorsports. This includes formulating the fuels for Formula One and delivering the learnings from the track and to the road.
 
Dr. Andrea Dolfi, Global Technology Manager OEM Liaison and Motorsport, PETRONAS Lubricants International (PLI). Within PLI’s Research & Technology team, I oversee the business relationship with OEM (car manufacturing) customers as far as technical activities are concerned. For Formula One™, together with Chan, we coordinate technical projects linked to the development of the lubricants and other functional fluids such as the ERS coolant and the Hydraulic fluid for the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ team. 
 
The trackside support team of engineers, who travel with the Silver Arrows are also part of this the support. Together, we perform fuel and used oil analysis during the races, which are sent back to the engineers in the respective technical base locations in UK and Italy for further testing. 
1: Please elaborate on PETRONAS’ cutting-edge Fluid Technology Solutions™?
 
Dr. Andrea: Formula One is the ultimate test ground for PETRONAS to study and understand engine performance, ie the relationship between the engine and the functional fluids that powers its performance. 
 
The race track is a very unique environment – it has zero-tolerance for error and the people who work or drive on it are required to have precise, laser sharp attention to detail. Whether we are working with the drivers on the tracks or the engineers in the labs, our experience in Formula One has helped us to refine our approach in the development of fuels (PETRONAS PRIMAX), lubricants (PETRONAS SYNTIUM), and functional fluids (PETRONAS TUTELA: ERS coolant, hydraulic oil, and transmission oil). 
 
This approach is what we call the PETRONAS Fluid Technology Solutions™. It enables us to develop superior fuels, lubricants and functional fluids, hand-in-hand with the development of the technology that it is to be used for. The symbiotic nature of this relationship between engine/mechanical engineers and PETRONAS engineers is core to PETRONAS Fluid Technology Solutions™.
 
In the context of Formula One, PETRONAS applied our Fluid Technology Solutions™ approach in close collaboration with the Mercedes AMG engineers to co-develop not just the fuels, lubricants and functional fluids, but also to co-design the new 1.6-litre turbocharged direct-injection V6 hybrid Formula One engine to exploit maximum synergy between the engine and our products. 
 
That said, our expertise is not just limited to the race tracks. Through the PETRONAS Fluid Technology Solutions™ integrated approach; we take what we learn from Formula One and our partnership with Mercedes AMG to translate the knowledge and insights for the development of fuels, lubricants and functional fluids for road going cars, ie your cars. 
2: What are the main differences/requirements of today’s turbocharged F1™ cars versus the previous generation of turbocharged F1cars of the late 70s and 80s? 
 
Mr Chan: I don’t think we need to look that far back to fully appreciate the differences/requirements of today’s Formula One cars versus that of past years. You only need to go back to 2014. 
 
In 2014 the Fédération Internationale de l’Automobile (FIA) introduced what is touted as the biggest revolution to Formula One – they enforced greater emphasis on engine reliability and fuel efficiency. Then in the 2015 season, the FIA set a limit of four engines per driver instead of five in the previous year. The drivers had to get by with one less Power Unit and this meant that the engines had to perform with even greater efficiency and reliability. By comparison, the mileage covered by each of the five permitted units was approximately 2,800km during the 2014 season. In 2015, it was 3,400km for four Power Units. This was a 20% increase for each engine last year.  
 
As Andrea mentioned before – engine performance is reliant on the efficiency and superiority of the fluids that powers the race engines. This naturally meant that PETRONAS had to develop fuels, lubricants and functional fluids that not only guarantees performance, but exceed expectations and ensure reliability throughout the season. 
3: How much influence in terms of formulation or processes for the F1™ cars was reverse engineered into the road-going formula? 
 
Mr Chan: The recent revision to the Formula One™ engine requirements to V6 1.6L engines brings these extreme racing machines closer to everyday cars on the roads. 
 
As such, much of the development in fluid technology is easily applicable and transferrable to ordinary car engines. You would be surprised to learn that automotive fluids in a Formula One™ engine run close to the composition of ordinary, commercially available products. In 2015 for example, we introduced PETRONAS PRIMAX 97 with Improved Advanced Energy Formula for superior acceleration with learnings developed from Formula One with the following attributes:
 
Protects the engine with the nation’s first low sulphur gasoline: On top of its lower sulphur content that benefits sensitive emission systems, the new formulation also removes and prevents deposits, providing long-term protection to the fuel injectors.
 
Provides better combustion with the technology of the winning formula: The fine quality base fuel produced by our world class PETRONAS refineries is an optimized formulation developed through our partnership with the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team. With better combustion, motorists can experience longer, smoother drives with each tank of new PETRONAS PRIMAX 97 with Improved Advanced Energy Formula.
 
Improves drivability with the world’s first use of a new chemistry: This new improved chemistry ensures better friction reduction at the cylinder wall and enhances the engine oil's function, resulting in smoother acceleration. Our new formulation delivers an overall acceleration benefit of +2% over standard fuels.
 
PETRONAS is rapidly introducing our leading edge products to the end consumers through renewed approaches and translating the relevancy of Formula One™ technology for the general market. The ‘track to road’ approach requires products that are proven to exceed expectations (as testament of Formula One successes by the MERCEDES AMG PETRONAS Formula One™ Team) and meet customer needs as identified through professional market research, as well as collaboration with automotive engineers. 

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